To honour the release of Disney’s fiftieth animated feature Tangled here’s my list of the ten best baddies in the studio’s history. Disney aren’t short of a villain or two and it was a tough list to compile, I had to leave some great nasties out of it. I was also sorely tempted to include ‘Man’, the unseen threat in Bambi but decided ultimately to stick with tangible characters. From ten to one here they are.
10. Professor Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
How could a Disney villain voiced by Vincent Price not make this list? The Professor Moriarty to Basil’s Sherlock Holmes is Disney’s and mousedom’s Napoleon of Crime, a nefarious schemer and rat, sorry, mouse of ambition. He feeds his own underlings to cats and has the downright tenacious cheek to commit treason by usurping the queen. His traps are bold and brutal but the real reason he sticks in the mind is because of Price’s delightful drawling charicterisation.
9. Hades (Hercules)
Sporting some awesome flame-effect hair and wit dry enough to cause a drought in a rainforest the God of the Underworld is one of the mouse house’s more amusing villains. Voiced by James Woods Hades steals the film effortlessly but there’s more to him than a warped sense of humour as his temper has to be one of the most explosive in all cinema. And think of it this way, he’s a god, if every villain on this list got together for a scrap he’d win hands down.
8. Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
I’m not too sure what it is that makes Ursula so awesome. Maybe its the character design, after all you’re not likely to foget the sight of an obese octopus witch in a hurry. Maybe it’s her style of villainy, tricking Ariel out of her voice is pretty original and rather nasty. Whatever it is most people are agreed that she leaves a big impression.
7. Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians)
A villain so popular that her whole image and personality have entered popular psyche. As motivations go the rampant desire to look simply fabulous darling in a fur coat might not seem all that heinous but when it’s at the mortal expense of a ton of cute monochrome puppies you know you’ve got a seriously twisted individual on your hands. She’s also one of the few Disney villains whose character comments on society morally, highlighting the shameful obsession with materialism and image.
6. Gothel (Tangled)
The latest arrival at Disney’s party of nasties is among their subtlest, maybe not in terms of motivation, Mother Gothel is desperate to remain young eternally but it’s her methods that set her out. Emotional blackmail, passive-aggressive behaviour and a nastily controlling nature mark her as one of Disney’s most believable and therefore most monstrous creations.
5. The Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Sometimes all a villain needs to be is scary. The unnamed queen in the studio’s first feature-length picture is frightening enough normally but it’s her transformation into an old hag that sticks in people’s memories and imaginations. The scene remains one of the most striking in animation of the era and the whole persona of the character maintains a timeless menace.
4. Prince John (Robin Hood)
This cowardly thumb-sucking lion sits firmly in the camp of funny villains. Voiced brilliantly by Peter Ustinov this would-be king is as hilarious to watch as he is blackhearted both able to imprison the population of an entire town and cry for mummy when he doesn’t get his way he may not be the most threatening villain but he’s definitely one of the most memorable.
3. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
In many ways there’s nothing obviously special about Maleficent. Fulfilling a similar role to Snow White’s queen she is a simple duchess of darkness driven by jealousy and spite but several things make her stand out. First there’s her timelssly menacing character design and then the fact that she turns into a freakin’ dragon for undoubtedly the best climactic battle sequence in the Disney canon.
2. Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
And the award for funniest Disney baddie goes to the dastardly pirate Captain Hook. One of children’s literature’s most well-known wrong-uns is brought to vivid life in Disney’s excellent adaptation of J M Barrie’s classic tale in which he desperately schemes to wipe out Peter Pan. His nastiness is brilliantly offset by hysterical slapstick. Try to watch as he cowers from the crocodile, gets pounded by a canon or scoots off over the water like a skimming pebble and not laugh.
1. Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
This may have been a tricky list to compile but there was nothing difficult about choosing who to place at the top. Frollo is without doubt the most evil and hateable Disney villain, his inhumanity, self-righteousness and cruelty to Quasimodo are enough to make you loathe him but when he starts sleazing onto Esmerelda you realise you’ve got something you never thought you’d see in a Disney animation – a sex pest. His song Hellfire is unquestionably the studio’s darkest musical number and his heinous, obsessive hatred of the gypsies marks him as the most vivid example of a very real type of villain, the kind driven by blind prejudice.